If the most common statement seasoned travellers hear is, “You’re so lucky to be able to travel so much!” Then by far the most common question we get is, “How can you afford to travel so much?”
Being able to save money is like wanting to lose weight and keep it off – everyone knows that diets don’t work, you need to make a lifestyle change. It’s the same thing with saving money. There’s no quick fix. If you want the ability to be able to save large amounts of money over long periods of time, you have to make some lifestyle changes.
There are a lot of ways in which people save their money. All I know is how I do it, and since I just recently finished saving for a three month trip to Australia, I’m going to tell you how I saved up enough money for it.
First things first, I can give you all the tips in the world on how to save money; stop eating out, stop going out to bars and drinking, stop smoking, stop shopping, stop buying a coffee every morning, etc. But you already know that all of those things cost money, and that by minimizing them you can save money. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to stop doing them.
You have to change your mindset and the way you think about attaining happiness.
Everyone has vices – hobbies or habits that eat up a chunk of our income. My vice is travel. I’m able to save up a lot of money for travel because travelling is important to me. It’s my priority. When something is a priority to you, you’ll always be able to make it happen because you’re going to put it first and you won’t mind sacrificing other things for it.
A few months ago I tried on a dress I liked in a store and was contemplating buying it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it and though it looked nice on me, so I was leaning towards getting it. But it was $185, so it was certainly a bit of an expense. As I was mulling it over in my brain, I thought to myself, “Liane, that $185 works out to be 6-8 nights in a hostel or campground. Remember you wanted to go camping in the Grampians in Australia? That’s your week’s worth of accommodations right there. Would you rather have the experience of camping in a beautiful National Park for a week, or would you rather have this dress?” I chose to forgo my purchase of the dress. It wasn’t worth it. It just wasn’t important to me anymore once I put it into perspective. You need to be willing to give up things you like, in order to have enough money for the things that you love.
So, you’ve established that being able to travel is important to you and you’re willing to make some sacrifices to attain that goal. Where do you start?
Firstly, open up a separate bank account specifically for travel. All the money you save for travel will go into this account, and you will only withdrawal money from this account to pay for your travel.
In regards to my situation of saving up money for Australia, I needed to save a lot of money in a short amount of time. I only had six months to save up thousands of dollars (I budgeted I would need approximately $7400, which I outlined in my Creating A Travel Budget post earlier).
Because I had so little time to save up so much money, I had to use a pretty drastic technique for saving.
During the months of May – October I worked as a bartender in a restaurant. In terms of wages, I would receive a bi-weekly paycheque, as well as cash from the tips I made, which I would receive daily. How I chose to drastically save was by saving all my large tips and putting my smaller cash tips in my wallet for spending money.
For example, if I made $80 in tips one night and received that payment as three 20’s, one 10, and two 5’s, I would put the ten dollar bill and the two five dollar bills in my wallet for spending money, and put the three 20’s ($60) in an envelope to be deposited in my bank account at the end of the week. As you can imagine, the money in my envelope added up fast. Since I worked five shifts a week, I was saving anywhere between $200-$400/week in cash tips (depending on how much I actually earned that week – some weeks it was far less or more than others). Saving most of my tips allowed me to bank approximately $4,800 in six months, even by the most conservative estimates. As well, I also got my bi-weekly paycheque, which almost always went into the bank in its entirety (although sometimes money was taken out of it – or my tips – to pay for bills). That was another approximately $5,500 saved in six months – a grand total of $10,300 saved.
For a lot of people this amount of money might seem crazy, and there were a lot of weeks I spent less than $100 (and some weeks I spent a lot more than that, too). But, when you think about it, $100/week in spending money isn’t so bad. Sure, there are a lot of things you can’t do, but you end up finding creative solutions around them. Want to go out for dinner with your friends? Why not have everyone over to your place and make it a pot-luck? Instead of meeting up with a friend for lunch, why not just grab a coffee? Instead of going out to the movies, rent a movie instead. There are all kinds of alternatives that can be equally satisfying. Also, the most obviously way to save more money is to work more. Not only do you increase your income when you pick up extra shifts, but you also have less free time to go out and actually spend your money anyway. It’s a win-win situation if you’re trying to save.
The main reason why I was able to save this much money however, was because I had so few expenses. I lived at home with my family and didn’t pay rent/utilities, I shared a car with my sister (and thus shared all the associated costs), and I’m debt free so I don’t have any student loan payments to make. I admit that this certainly isn’t possible for everyone. And like I said earlier, I realize my method of saving was extreme. But even if you took my model for saving and flipped it (saving $20/shift instead of $60/shift), that’s still $100/week you’re putting in the bank – that’s still $2,400 in six months. That’s pretty good! In only a years time you would have enough money to be able to backpack around Asia for several months!
I admit, I spent a lot of this past spring/summer being a bit of a hermit, but it certainly paid off for me. I sacrificed a boring, work-a-holic summer in exchange for three months of vacation time in Australia. This summer when a lot of my friends were out partying and on vacation, I was usually at work or at home. But now, I get to be here in Australia on vacation while everyone else is working. So, it’s a trade-off.
Everyone has the ability to save their money, but you need to be willing to make some lifestyle changes in order to attain your goal. It’s hard work, and it can certainly be frustrating at times – but when you’re scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef or climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower, you’ll soon realize it’s worth it.